Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Don't Pick Over-Aged Athletes for AYC, Ijirigho Tells AFN

Athletics Federation of Nigeria,AFN has been urged to present only elegible athletes at the forthcoming African Athletics Youth Championships billed for March 28-31 in Warri, Delta State.

Former national 400m champion, Dr. Bruce Ijirigho handed down the advice as the AFN prepares to select Nigeria's team during a trial in February.

Ijirigho who is spear-heading a grassroots athletics development programme in Cross River State argued that the practice of fielding over-aged athletes was a contributory factor to the down-turn of Nigerian athletics.

"The AFN shouldn't go and parade 27-year-olds in our team. I told the AFN technical director, to be in Port Harcourt for the National School Sports Festival, where you will have genuine junior athletes competing. They should be able to select their athletes from there and put them into camp for the AYC."

It was gathered that the AFN might be using the Pastor D.K Olukoya Under-18 Championships to select its athletes, but the age category of the AYC is Under-17. It is regarded as an eleme-ntary event that targets school children.

"We intend to use the D.K. Olukoya Champio-nships as our trial. But right now we don't have a date for that yet. But the thing is that when, for instance, we have the first three finishers we will take the one that is under-17," said Dr. Ken Anugueje, a member of the AFN and also a member of the Warri 2013 Championships Local Organising Committee (LOC), which was inaugurated on Wednesday in Asaba.

He added that it was rather difficult getting the real ages of the junior athletes as some States, in a bid to win at all cost, normally present athletes who have finished their secondary school education.

Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Vice President, David Okeyo, stated that hosts Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Algeria, Uganda and Cameroon are some of the teams that beat the Dec. 31, 2012 deadline to send in their preliminary entry list for the champion-ships. "Going by history, the inaugural Africa Athletics Championships has recorded a success if we look at the number of countries that have put in their confirmation on the first take," Okeyo said in Nairobi.

"African countries (and regions) have a tendency of waiting until the last minute to send in their lists making it a hard task for organization. The LOC in Warri will have easy time to prepare for the continents best runners now that we know that over half of the countries will be in Nigeria." The event will serve as a build up ahead of the World Youth Championships, which will be held in Donestk, Ukraine in July.

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